Wednesday, June 9, 2010
South Africa: Day 1
And so it begins, my 35-day South African adventure.
Most of you know why I'm here, but I'm not really supposed to write about "that" on this blog, so you'll have to keep tabs on www.espn.com/worldcup to read what I've got to say about "that."
What I can write here is about my journey, which began with a quick flight to Atlanta, a six-hour layover that was supposed to be a three-hour layover and a little 16-hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. All told, about 26 hours of travel. Piece of cake.
For those who followed my trip to Angola, well, this is nothing like that. Not so far. Hotel outside of JoBurg is very nice, and across the street from a swanky casino with about 30 different restaurants. I feel like I could be in Anywhere, USA, so far.
"So far," is probably the operative phrase. On Saturday, when most of my friends and family are going to be watching my brother and nephew trying to do something pretty special, I'm going to be flying to Polokwane, which I'm told is going to be "different." Again, I'll reserve judgment until I see it for myself.
The only bit of adventure that happened so far occurred in my hotel room. First, I flooded the bathroom. I turned on the shower, which is one of those phone booth-sized units and the nozzle was pointed straight out the door. All it took was one two-second blast of water and I had an inch of water in the bathroom. Four towels dried it up.
Then, when I went to bed, exhausted from the day of travel, I woke up to what sounded like a growling animal. Now, understand, it was 3 a.m. and I was working on only a couple of hours sleep in the past 30 hours, so maybe it didn't really sound like growling. But that's what I heard. And it sounded like it was in my room.
Remembering a time when a raccoon somehow got into the hallway of my Boston apartment, I wasn't ruling anything out. So, when the growling sound persisted, and I began to think, "This is Africa," I reached for the rolling desk chair and rolled it toward the window, which is where the sound was emanating. I figured if there was indeed a wild African animal in my room (perhaps a monkey?), the chair would startle it, and I'd have to make a bee-line for the door.
No animal emerged, but a short while later, the sounds persisted and continued on through the night. In the morning, when I drew the curtains, I saw animal feces on the window sill. I'm guessing the growling was pigeons. We'll see what happens tonight.
The better part of Day 1 was spent in the International Broadcast Center, where we picked up our credentials, got a lay of the land, and watched (in amazement, as always) as 99 percent of the non-American journalists chain-smoked cigarettes in the courtyard. Food in the IBC was decent. Things will pick up day by day as we get ready for you know what. Yeah, I'm talking about "that."